A study by The Guardian shows how the Russian media and internet trolls have created the pernicious conspiracy theory that the White Helmets—a group of volunteer first responders working in Syria—is actually equivalent to a terrorist organization. The Guardian dissects how that theory was laundered between pseudo-experts, Russian-government-backed media outlets such as RT and Sputnik, as well as social-media trolls and bots. According to The Guardian, the concerted effort to discredit the White Helmets started at the same time as Russian military intervention in September 2015. Analytics firm Graphika said an online network of some 14,000 Twitter users talking about the White Helmets included many accounts linked to Russian interference in the U.S. election, and which Twitter has closed down. “If you scroll through tweets about the White Helmets, pretty much every other conversation is equating them with ISIS, calling them terrorists. It looks like they are the bad guys,” Sam Woolley, from the University of Oxford told The Guardian. “It’s all part of an effort to delegitimize western efforts to stabilize Syria,” he said.
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